Ireland’s top travellers give their packing tips

Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, host of TV travel show Getaways in Brown Thomas Dublin.

Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin
Getaways presenter

“My travels started with inter-railing, when I was 19.

Then, it was all backpacking — I did a camping trip in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia with a few of my mates, and did the budget-travelling thing in Australia, Argentina and Thailand. These days, I travel for Getaways and work, but I also have friends all over the world. It cuts down when you can sleep on someone’s couch. Sometimes, it gets tiring, but I love it, and it’s also nice head-space to be away… you come home with a different perspective.

1) Plan ahead: “I’m that kind of person, so my best tip is to pack two days ahead. The night before you go, take out at least four things. That’s what I normally do. Chanel used to say don’t leave the house until you take off the last thing that you put on. She was all about the accessorising, about less is more. That’s what I would say.”

2) Mark your case: “I would definitely advise putting a marker on your suitcase. It doesn’t have to be a sock or the county colours, but something to make it stand out in whatever airport you’re in, because so many suitcases look the same. Mine is a little neon, blue plastic thing — it’s really small and nobody else can tell, but I can spot it.”

3) Use a scales: “I have one of those travel scales, and I always weigh my bag before I leave the house. But I also bring it when I’m buying suitcases, because you don’t need a suitcase that’s heavy.”

4) Don’t be too hard on yourself: “If I’m travelling for one night, I’ll only bring cabin baggage. But, otherwise, I’m a girl. I like to bring my curlers and make-up with me… you’re on holiday or going away for a reason. There’s no point being a martyr.”

5) Rock n’ roll: “I just roll everything. If I’m presenting for Getaways, or something, I’ll iron stuff before I put it in, roll it up, and then take it out as quick as I can when I get there. You fit more when you roll — any backpacker will tell you that, and it’s the same with a suitcase.”

Getaways, BBC One Northern Ireland, Monday, February 10. Also available on the RTE player. Aoibhinn is wearing a blue Issa dress, €575; the Samsonite firelight range cases cost €369, €345, €355, and all are available from Brown Thomas

Annmarie O’Connor

Irish Examiner Fashion Editor, stylist & presenter

“I travel lots for work, but when it’s long-haul, I always try to find out about the culture of the place I’m going to. That’s how it starts, and it differs from country to country. My next trip is to Cambodia, for example, and I didn’t realise just how conservative they are — if you’re a woman, what you need to wear to cover up walking through the markets, and so on. So I’ve been on the case early — my bags were packed two weeks beforehand.”

1) Health first: “If I’m going long-haul, I always start with the most important things — getting my jabs or boosters, going to the Tropical Medical Bureau, compiling a list of things I’ll need to bring, going to Boots, and so on. I always pack the first-aid kit early.”

2) Make a list: “I love making lists for my clothes. I throw things into a bag as I go along, because if I leave it to the last minute, invariably, I’ll miss something. I’m too much of a control freak to leave it to the last minute. I do the same thing for styling. I have a styling list on my phone, to make sure there’s nothing I’ve forgotten.”

3) Pack smart: “How I pack depends on where I’m going and what I’m doing. If I’m going to a fashion week, for example, and I have to bring good clothes, I have them steamed, ironed and pressed, and then I fold them as you would in a store. I fold them up with tissue paper, so when I take them out, they’re almost wrinkle-free. When you arrive, hang them in the bathroom when you take a shower, so the steam can take out any small wrinkles.”

4) See double: “I try and bring things that double-up — a cashmere scarf can cover up your shoulders, or you can use it as a pillow on the plane, for example. A long sarong can be used as a skirt, a halter-dress, a beach cover, a top, and so on.”

5) Go compact: “With toiletries and bathroom products, you can go to Muji or Penneys, wherever they sell those little travel-size bottles, and fill them up. I go to my hairdresser and get travel-size sachets of conditioner, too — they’re great, because they’re flat. You can open them up and throw the sachet in the bin without having to carry it back.”

Pól Ó Conghaile

Travel Writer of the Year

“I travel often, but not as lightly as you might think. The road is my office, so I need a laptop, SLR camera (Nikon D800) and all the chargers, lenses and adapters that entails. That doesn’t leave much room for manoeuvre with luxuries such as underpants…

“Ok, I’m kidding — but you get the picture. Over the years I’ve gotten it down to a fine (if flawed) art. The trick to successful packing lies in the preparation.”

1) Be prepared: “Savvy travellers know their airline’s baggage rules and charges. They should also invest in a quality, lightweight bag (a case can weigh 3-4kg before the first pair of socks) and have a packing checklist. The trick with the list is to make it as you unpack, because that’s when you can see exactly what you do and do not need.”

2) Pack essentials first: “I bring photocopies of my passport, driving licence and other critical documents on my phone and in my washbag — a simple precaution that can save time and panic if they’re stolen. Essential medicines and kit go in my hand luggage.”

3) Stay comfy: “I wear a sturdy pair of walking shoes on the plane, and pack one pair of lightweight trainers for downtime (a change is as good as a rest). Clothes-wise, I find dark jeans work in almost any situation, and I’m a keen swimmer, so I always pack a pair of togs. You never know when you’ll get a memorable dip.”

4) Save space: “I stuff socks and chargers into shoes, keep a separate travel washbag stocked with tiny toiletries, and roll most clothes rather than folding them.”

5) Face facts. “No amount of rolling reduces the weight of an item, and creative packing is no use if you’re using it to cram in more items. A baggage allowance is a limit, not a target. Think of the extra space as an excuse to go shopping.”

Tanya Airey

Managing Director, Sunway Holidays

“I travel frequently for business and also holiday with my family a number of times a year. If I’m travelling on business I have a particular set of clothes that I bring with me, but for personal holidays I am a little bit more relaxed with my packing.”

1) Dress smart: “On business trips, I always wear trousers and a smart leather jacket in-flight. I layer my tops so I can adapt for weather at the destination. I don’t like to carry a big cabin bag — just my normal handbag, which fits a pashmina in case it gets cool on the flight.”

2) Plan your outfits: “I pack a selection of day and evening dresses in my suitcase. It makes it easier to decide what to wear, as separates can be tricky to mix and match when I’m on a busy business trip — but with a dress you just have one option. I am very organised and like to plan what to wear each day, so I’ll also pack accessories such as bags and jewellery with each dress. I try to bring just two or three pairs of shoes.”

3) Keep fit: “No matter how long the trip is I always pack my walking and gym gear, as I like to take a walk or do a quick gym visit when I am away.”

4) Separates for sightseeing: “When holidaying with my family I always bring separates for daywear — they’re more adaptable when sightseeing. But I still favour dresses in the evening. I don’t over-pack, but bring enough clothes for the number of days I am away.”

5) Bring a spare: “Saying all that, I will always bring one extra outfit in case of a wardrobe malfunction! With the exception of last summer, we rarely get weather in Ireland where you can wear shorts and light tops. So I launder my summer clothes after each trip, and pack them together in my wardrobe to make it easy to pack for the next trip.”

Brendan Courtney

Fashion designer, broadcaster & entrepreneur

“When I get to the airport, I’m like a finely-tuned machine. I have five suitcases, including a four-wheeled Samsonite in three sizes! Travel for work and pleasure are worlds apart, so depending on the gig, I pull one out. I’m an unbelievably organised packer.”

1) Pack light for pleasure: “For holidays, I only go with hand luggage. I went to Thailand for a month last year on hand luggage. I wear what I’m wearing for dinner on the airplane, with two extra shirts, maybe a light jacket, and a couple of pairs of shorts, vests and flip-flops. You’ll get into the comfort zone and live in them.”

2) Think it through: “My top tip is to write down the number of days you’ll be away for — Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, whatever it is — about a week ahead. Then you have a plan. Do it on a little piece of paper, and look at what you’re doing on a particular day. It sounds ridiculously organised, but I have about four jobs when I’m on the road. I’m presenting, producing, writing scripts and running around selling our Lennon Courtney collection. The last thing I need to be doing is worrying about what I’m going to wear.”

3) Pack for purpose: “I travel light on holiday, but work requires the heavy suitcases. At London Fashion Week I was filming every day, so I had to bring a huge suitcase with five suits. I had to have a look for every day. I pack our Lennon Courtney collection in a separate suitcase I can leave in a hotel room until I have a sales meeting.”

4) Get a gold card: “A gold card means you are fast-tracked in all the way, and that is the difference between a good day and a bad day. You can’t buy it — you have to earn it with air miles — but one thing you can buy at Dublin Airport is Airport Genie [access to executive lounges and fast-track security channels].”

5) Know when to fold ’em: “Suits are easy to travel with. Just take the two shoulders and fold it back on itself so that the lapel is facing out. Tuck the arm in, fold it over in half, flatten and roll the trousers.”


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